Like many others, my family loves Christmastime. But my sister Laura? Her holiday cheer is in a class all its own. Truly, Laura possesses a holiday spirit that could make Santa Claus himself look unenthusiastic! In July, she chooses “The Grinch” (Jim Carrey version) for movie night with her husband. In September, the Christmas music starts. In October, she’s decorating her house (inside and out) because “the season is just too short.” And once Halloween has passed, she is lighting “Fresh Balsam” candles and washing her hands in “Mistletoe Magic” hand soap. The girl loves Christmas. I swear she is part elf.
In Laura’s mind, there is no such thing as too much Christmas. So, that’s why these Sugar Cookie Presents were made for her. They are a gift within a gift – double the holiday cheer! What could possibly be better? And since cookie-baking is always on our holiday agenda, they are a must-have this year.
Here’s how to make this crafty cookie:
Cream together the softened butter and the sugar.
Add the egg*, half & half (or milk) and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
(*Tip: When baking, I like to crack my eggs into a separate bowl or cup first. It’s just a simple precaution to make sure I don’t have any shell shards trying to sneak into the batter.)
Add the baking powder and flour (I added my flour a cup at a time so it wouldn’t go flying when I turned the beater on). Mix at a low speed until thoroughly combined.
I decided to make one batch of regular sugar cookies and one batch of red ones, so at this point I divided my batter in half, shaped the dough into a ball, and flattened it a little on a sheet of plastic wrap. Fold the wrap around the disc of dough and place it in the refrigerator.
For colored dough, add drops of food coloring – a few at a time – beating and adding until you reach your desired color density (keeping in mind that it looks a little lighter once baked). Truth be told, I knew that the red would probably bake rather pink, but with the right decorating, I figured it would still be festive.
Repeat the same steps with this half of the dough – make a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap, and then refrigerate for an hour.
After the dough has firmed up in the fridge, heat your oven to 350° F. Remove one portion of dough and unwrap it. Lightly flour a surface (I used a cutting board), and roll the dough out 1/4-inch thick. Ideally, I would use two different sized cookie-cutters to make this process quicker, but I had no such luck tracking down supplies. So, with a ruler and a pizza cutter, I cut the dough into squares that were an inch or so larger than my cookie cutter.
After cutting a pan’s worth of regular squares, I re-rolled the excess (repeatedly) in order to cut the same number of frames (squares with the center punched out using the cookie cutter).
In hindsight, I wish that I had decorated half of the solid cookies (which would become the tops of my “presents”) with colored sugars or other holiday decorations. Something to consider when you make yours!
Bake all of the cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes (the frames are thinner so they will bake faster). Repeat the same process with the second batch (in my case, the red batch) of dough.
Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them to a cooling rack. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt the candy coating according to the package directions (I went the simple route and melted mine in a microwave-safe container.)
Use a spatula to spoon the candy coating into a resealable plastic bag. Then take a scissors and snip a small hole in one corner. This is your cheapo piping bag and it is going to make your life so much easier!
Pipe the candy coating around bottom edge of one “frame” cookie. Place that on top of a solid cookie base.
Repeat this process, adding another frame cookie to the stack. You now have a solid cookie topped with two frame cookies. Allow the little boxes to solidify for a few minutes so the candy coating sets.
Fill each box with holiday candies and then top with a solid cookie. Tie the package up with a ribbon so the candies stay securely inside. Now it’s time to deliver your Sugar Cookie Presents to neighbors, teachers and your crazy, Christmas-loving sister!
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